Progressive Conservative leadership hopeful Rob Lantz chats with some of the residents of the Andrews of Stratford seniors’ facility during a campaign stop. Lantz is one of three people vying for leadership of the PC party.
©Guardian photo by Teresa Wright
For a man who wants to become the leader of one of P.E.I.’s two main political parties, Rob Lantz is surprisingly unassuming.
The photogenic 45-year-old candidate was soft-spoken and often self-effacing during an afternoon with The Guardian on the campaign trail last week.
He arrived at the newspaper office in a red minivan, driven by one of his campaign volunteers, well-known former CBC personality Roger Younker. Younker joked about the colour of the van, pointing to Lantz’s blue jeans as a more appropriate colour for the Progressive Conservative leadership hopeful.
Their first stop was the Andrews of Stratford seniors’ facility. Lantz listened attentively during a tour of the facility. It was clear he was familiar with the concerns raised by facility president Keith O’Neill regarding difficulties private community care centres are having with government regulations and funding. But he refrained from taking any pot shots at the current Liberal administration over these concerns. He mainly nodded and listened.
Later, he entered a large common room filled with seniors sitting around tables enjoying a mid-morning snack. Lantz went to every table, chit-chatting easily with the residents, occasionally introducing himself as ‘Dr. Brodie Lantz’s son.’
Younker commented that three weeks earlier, Lantz found it challenging to work a room. Even now, while he appeared confident shaking hands and making small talk, there was a certain hesitation in his demeanour.
But Lantz firmly dismisses the notion he is a rookie in this campaign. He pointed to the eight years he served on Charlottetown city council, notably as chair of the oft-combative planning board.
“I’ve had more political experience than the other two candidates. I’ve chaired more contentious public meetings over the past eight years than I can shake a stick at. Charlottetown politics is not just any community council on P.E.I., it’s a full service community with a $40-million budget.”
His next campaign stop was a highly unusual one — the Crossfit 782 gym. There he showcased his adeptness at chin-ups and weight lifting. He later explained that his campaign team wants people to get to know some of his lesser-known accomplishments — he is an avid Crossfitter, he is fluently bilingual, he plays guitar.
Later, he headed over to his campaign headquarters, abuzz with volunteers working the phones. Someone handed Lantz a spreadsheet. It was a list of people he was to follow up on with personal phone calls.
Lantz explained his team has a comprehensive database with names and details of all party members, including whether they are supporters and their key issues of concern.
Lantz says he sees himself as an “unconventional politician” because he not in this race for personal gain, but because he wants to change the way things are done in government.
“I’m not interested in getting into it just to be a cog in the wheel of the big machine and perpetuate the status quo,. Maybe I’ll fail, but I prefer to be in there the same way I was on city council — constantly advocating for new ways of doing things … My best case scenario is to make a transformational change that will set the province on a path for a new era of prosperity for a generation.”
Rob Lantz in a nutshell
• Born and raised in Charlottetown
• Worked for the last 16 years at DeltaWare Systems
• Served on Charlottetown city council from 2006 to 2014
• Married to Kelly, father of two school-age boys, Brodie and Ronan
Something you may not know about Rob Lantz: He started a business planting trees when he was 22 years old. He employed 25 people and estimates he planted upwards of 2 million trees across P.E.I.
Why are you running for the leadership of the PC party?
Because I love Prince Edward Island, and I’ve been put in a position where I have the opportunity to make a difference, and I just could not justify letting the opportunity pass.
How do you plan to balance the budget while also maintaining services Islanders expect?
Government has to decide what its priorities are. I do not intend to make a wholesale cut and slash to the civil service, but there does need to be a strategy over time to reduce the size of the civil service, whether that’s through attrition or finding efficiencies. Also, we need to grow our way out of the deficit situation — economic development is going to be the key to improving our fiscal situation.
How do you propose to create more jobs and economic development in P.E.I.?
With falling oil prices, we’re getting a very skilled and experienced workforce returning to P.E.I., which is probably unprecedented. And if we can harness their skills and talent and experience, I think we need to view that as a big opportunity.
How do you think P.E.I. can meet the needs and pressures facing the health system with an aging population while also managing increased costs?
The health-care delivery model has been evolving to meet the needs of Islanders and our changing demographics, but there’s certain things I think we can do better. For example, collaborative health-care clinics. We need to continue to be innovative.
The rural-urban divide is often an issue that is raised during election campaigns. Is there a rural-urban divide in P.E.I.?
If you travel to rural communities, they certainly perceive there to be. There was this concept of one Island community, which was a misguided concept. I think that we can have thriving and independent communities all across Prince Edward Island, and I’ve talked about empowering those communities. I think municipal governance reform and land use policy has the greatest potential on P.E.I. to enable communities, to give them the opportunity to manage their own affairs, chart their own course, make their own decisions and give them the independence that they don’t feel they have.